Friday, April 26, 2019

What is Infertility?

Infertility is usually defined as the “inability to conceive within 12 months.” This diagnosis, unfortunately, occurs in 15% of couples trying to conceive. Infertility can look differently for many couples including treatments they choose, ways of coping and communicating, periods of mourning and loss, and eventually how couples decide to start their family or live a childfree life. This blog discusses what infertility is (some symptoms, testing, and treatments), the feelings of loss and stress it puts on a couple, and how infertility can lead to adoption for some people.

Some indicators of infertility are:

  • Infrequent menstrual periods
  • Age 35+
  • History of STDs and pelvic infections
  • Known uterine fibroids or endometrial polyps
  • Endometriosis
  • Male semen abnormalities

Some testing that doctors can do for a fertility evaluation:

  • Physical examination and gathering of medical history
  • Transvaginal ultrasound – this can detect uterine abnormalities such as fibroids and polyps, distal fallopian tube occlusion, and ovarian abnormalities including ovarian cysts.
  • Lab testing - lab work can measure blood levels of certain hormones, thyroid function, and menstrual function.
  • HSG - this test evaluates fallopian tubal patency, uterine filling defects such as fibroids and polyps, and scarring of the uterine cavity.
  • Semen analysis – 4 things are measured for the male: 1. Semen volume, 2. Sperm concentration, 3. Sperm mobility or movement and 4. Morphology, or shape of the sperm

Some treatment options:

  • Education - if families are educated about the normal process of fertility, problems that affect fertility, and treatment options it can empower them to make the best choices.
  • Medications to induce egg development and ovulation
  • Insemination
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Third party reproduction – sperm donation, egg or ovum donation, embryo donation, or gestational surrogacy
  • Surgery – after a thorough history, physical examination, and ultrasound are performed, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct an abnormality.


The Loss and Stress Infertility Can Bring Upon a Couple

Infertility may result in different feelings for a couple including loss, grief, shame, embarrassment, and frustration. There are a number of ways in which infertility can impact a couple’s relationship:

  • Disagreements on when to seek help
  • Sexual stress when trying to conceive
  • Disagreements on whether to share the struggles with infertility with others
  • Fears that if it’s “your fault,” your partner will leave
  • Tension and resentment over “who has it worse”
  • A misunderstanding over ways of coping
  • Financial strain
  • Differences of opinion on moving forward or next steps


During this time of unimaginable stress, there are practical ways that couples can choose to lean on each other and reduce stress. The most important of these is learning how to effectively communicate with each other. Share your fears and talk about your infertility. Seek out professional help to strengthen your ability to cope and manage, whether it be couples counseling or individual counseling. It is a myth that all couples who go to counseling will get divorced. Infertility can place a significant strain on your relationship and having a counselor is a good way to help you both navigate how to deal with this challenge together. You may also choose to reach out for social support. Don’t try to cope with infertility alone – research shows that couples who receive social support have improved relationships. You don’t need to tell everyone, but deciding on a few close friends or family whom you trust can make a substantial difference and create a positive outlet for both of you. Allow for differences in experience. Remember that everyone copes differently – offer each other support without preconditions or comparison. You can find ways to connect unrelated to your infertility. Find other topics to talk about and other activities to do. Think back to your days of dating and make a list of fun things to do together. Remember to compromise - whether it’s an argument over who to tell or how to pay for a treatment cycle, avoid black-and-white thinking and aim for a compromise. Lastly, sit down and make a plan together. Putting together an action plan and a financial plan that is short-term and flexible can help couples cope and feel more in control over the situation.


How Infertility Can Lead to Adoption

Some couples choose adoption after receiving their infertility diagnosis. For many couples, this is not an easy road and it takes some time to come to adoption as a way to build their family. Give yourself time to grieve, look into counseling, and when you’re ready, look into options for building a family.

What are some of the benefits of choosing adoption after infertility?

  • You could help a child in need – in many cases, these children’s parents were unable to take care of them, they’ve been separated from their siblings in the system, they’ve undergone abuse and great hardships, and they’re in desperate need of love and care. Adoptive parents can provide the love, care, shelter, and other needs these children have while gaining a child they can love and raise as their own.
  • You can still grow a family - adoption may not be the first option that came to mind when wanting to start a family, but adoptive families are beautiful creations sewn together with intentionality, commitment, and love.
  • Children get the resources they deserve – birth parents often create an adoption plan for their children because they know they can’t provide them with the life they deserve. Adoptive parents can then give them a stable and loving home with advantages, resources, needs, and wants for the children.
  • Love and support – children are given a second chance to receive love and support with an adoptive family.

Overall, infertility to adoption looks like hope for many individuals and families. Adoption allows people the chance and experience of raising a child, having a family, and impacting a child’s life forever.

I am also so in love with this little girl, to the point that I can’t believe I ever thought, even for a second, that adopting might be a lesser way of becoming a parent.

Healthline has a touching story of a woman who chose adoption to build her family after receiving an infertility diagnosis at the age of 26. In the article, she says, “I am also so in love with this little girl, to the point that I can’t believe I ever thought, even for a second, that adopting might be a lesser way of becoming a parent. But hindsight is always 20/20. One thing you will never hear me telling a woman who is struggling with infertility to do is to “just adopt.” I firmly believe that adoption has to be a calling for it to work. You have to want it, not because you can’t have anything else, but because it’s where your heart is actually leading you.” You can read her full story here

If you are exploring options and adoption is one of them our adoption specialists are more than happy to listen, answer your questions as you navigate your options, and/or help you start your adoption journey. Call or email us today! 

M. Dunlap